Romantic Literature: Sciences of Life and Mind

Books for the Course:

There will be an online packet of essays available in Blackboard. In addition to those readings, we will be discussing readings from the following anthology as well as reading and discussing the following novels. Click image links below to purchase new or used books online. (Make sure your browser ad-blocker is turned off.)

Catalog Description:

An intensive examination of the poetry of the six major English Romantic poets of the early nineteenth century: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats. Students also read major critical prose by and about these poets. Prerequisite for English majors: English 202. (None for non-English majors.)

Course Introduction:

This course analyzes various selections of poetry and prose from the English Romantic period in light of emerging sciences of that era. It has been commonly thought that the Romantic poets of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were transcendental dreamers lost in the idealism of their theories of the sublime imagination. However, most Romantic writers were well versed in the contemporary intellectual debates within the scientific community, and this course examines the creative intersections between Romantic literature and the Romantic sciences. The course includes a literary research project and an oral presentation.

Romanticism is a complex term, and a primary goal of the course will be to examine how scholars have come to understand this term by examining some key elements or aspects of the literature from what we call the Romantic period (the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth centuries). We will sharpen our understanding of Romantic period literature by examining it in relation to the emerging scientific thought and debates of this intellectually dynamic period. The Romantics have often been characterized (“romanticized,” if you will) as lofty dreamers, transcendental lovers of nature, idealistic revolutionaries, metaphysical theologians, and advocates for the sublime imagination. Although many of the Romantics expressed such ideas, they were also keenly aware of the scientific developments and debates of their age. The Spirit of the Age was revolutionary not only in poetics and politics, but also in science. Following on the heels of the Enlightenment, we see many developments in science, like the rise of materialism, methodological naturalism, neuroscience, and mechanistic views of the universe and life. The Romantic writers engaged these scientific developments, and in this class we will explore the degrees to which these writers responded to, agreed with, and in many cases rejected these emerging scientific views of mind and life. Welcome to Romantic Literature and the Emerging Sciences of the Mind and Life.